Stress is something we all experience at one time or another, but it can become an issue that affects our health and wellness if we don’t know how to manage stress correctly.
Use this Blisspot guide to help you recognize the signs and symptoms of stress, and how to deal with stress quickly and effectively with the right support for the best stress relief.
Stressed but don’t know what to do about it? You’re not alone.
Life can be stressful, you’re juggling work, family, friends, health, and other commitments. Stress is something that we have to deal with on a daily basis so it’s important to learn how to manage it effectively.
Everyone feels stressed at some point in their lives, but if stress becomes a constant state of being, it can start to impact your life. The physical symptoms of stress can also affect your health and wellbeing. This article will help you understand the signs of stress and what that means to you, and provides five top tips on how to prevent chronic stress and achieve stress relief to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Stress is the leading cause of disability in the world (World Health Organisation).
Even before the pandemic, 88% of founders reported feeling “extremely stressed” (KPMG, 2018) and 90% of employees have said struggling from stress, anxiety or mild depression stops them from thriving at work (Health Shield, 2018).
The last few years have further increased the urgent need for health and wellbeing, now more than ever, with many people feeling burned out and stressed. With so much uncertainty and instability in the world, people are feeling out of control and stressed out.
Learning to manage stress and build resilience is critical for health and wellbeing. The good news is that there are things you can do to manage stress and build your resilience, as we will discover in this article.
What is stress?
Stress is a worldwide issue, but what is stress exactly? What are the causes and types of stress?
Stress is a natural response to pressure caused by events or circumstances outside of your control. There’s a lot going on in the world outside of our control and there are a lot of people trying to deal with chronic stress symptoms.
Stress is your body’s reaction to pressure from different situations, including when you may feel threatened or anxious. It can trigger the “fight-or-flight” response, from your sympathetic nervous system, releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Can stress be good for you?
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert.
In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself, or alerting you to quickly slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
A manageable amount of stress, therefore, can be good for you, protecting you from potential dangers, or motivating you to do your best. However, it’s important to know how to cope with stress in healthy ways so it doesn’t become an overwhelming problem.
Why is stress a problem?
Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without any relief or relaxation in between. This is because the body needs the relaxation response to heal, grow, repair, and replenish. That is why prolonged stress or chronic stress can lead to serious health issues if left unresolved.
When you feel stressed, it can be difficult to think clearly and make good decisions, which can affect your concentration, work, physical capabilities, relationships, and sleep.
Long-term stress can also lead to insomnia, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain or loss, and digestive issues amongst other things.
What are the common signs of stress?
We all experience stress differently, but some of the most common symptoms are headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and irritability. You might also feel overwhelmed or have an upset stomach when you’re stressed out. If you notice these types of symptoms, try taking a few minutes for yourself every day and relax by doing something you enjoy.
Many people may not realize they are experiencing long-term stress because they get used to its symptoms: anxiety and panic attacks, sleep disruption (sleeping too much or too little), irritability and anger outbursts, loss of focus, and productivity at work. These can sometimes lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating or drinking alcohol, these can be signs that something needs to change.
It’s important to learn how to manage stress because it can affect your overall quality of life, health, mood, productivity, and relationships. That’s why it’s good to deal with stress quickly and effectively or implement changes and healthier choices before it becomes an issue.
How can I deal with stress?
It’s important to take steps to address your stress before it takes over your life, health, and relationships or leads to destructive, unhealthy, or negative behaviors.
You can deal with stress by becoming more aware of what you’re feeling and taking action to manage it rather than let it control you. Below are some of the ways you can start to learn how to manage stress quickly and effectively.
Five top tips on how to deal with stress:
1. Set boundaries and know your limits.
An important aspect of stress relief involves knowing when to say “no” and not taking on too much at one time. This can mean declining a social invitation, saying no to additional work hours or responsibilities, or just giving yourself permission to take a break for a few minutes each day.
Know the signs that you may be taking on more than you can handle, such as changes in eating or sleeping habits; increased levels of anxiety, sadness or irritability; or an inability to focus on tasks at hand. Actively work towards correcting this behavior by staying within your limits.
It is important to set your own boundaries and adjust your plans accordingly. When you have too many demands on your time and energy, it’s not just you that gets stressed but it can also create stress for everyone involved and increases the likelihood of burnout longer term. Set realistic expectations for yourself and your abilities.
2. Focus on your top priorities and set intentions.
When you know your limits and can set healthy boundaries, you can make sure that you don’t take on more projects than you can handle. Set an intention each day and for each meeting, project, or interaction. This helps you stay focused on what matters most and avoid overwhelm and overload.
Focus on your top one to three priorities at any given time. If you are feeling overloaded, ask yourself, what is the one thing I can do right now that will make the biggest difference?
3. Manage your workload and expectations.
Being over-busy is not a badge of honor to be worn with pride if it leaves you feeling frazzled. Working yourself into the ground can be counterproductive in the long run and can lead to burnout. This is not good for anyone, so making sure you can manage your workload is critical.
Understand what can be achieved in the time available. Be ambitious but realistic. Set goals and communicate expectations clearly with a schedule that works for everyone. Make sure you have time to rest and recharge.
4. Be honest—it’s ok to say no.
Learning to say no can be difficult. Sometimes we do not want to disappoint others, or let them down. Or we may feel that saying “no” would be self-serving or selfish.
It’s important to remember that setting unrealistic expectations can lead to stress and anxiety not just for yourself but for others too. Setting healthy boundaries can help create healthier relationships.
Be honest and communicate where you are at and how you are feeling. Sometimes it’s better to say no to things and keep your mental health in check. Check out Blisspot’s empowerment expert Jodie Bruce-Clarke’s free cheat sheet on polite ways to say no in the Blisspot community.
5. Take “Time out”
Sometimes it’s important to create some space away from people and situations that are causing you stress. This is not a bad thing. Science has proven that taking short breaks can actually boost productivity longer-term and improve relationships.
If you notice you are starting to feel stressed or overwhelmed, take a moment to stop and just breathe deeply and consciously. Fill your belly up with air like a balloon, feel the expansion of clean oxygen replenishing every cell and limb. Breathe into where you feel the tension most in your body. As you release the breath, focus on releasing the stress and tension from your body. Use this as a method to meditate or become mindful in the moment. Your body needs regular relaxation to restore and renew, so taking a break is important to your overall health, wellbeing, and productivity.
Another mindful exercise, which can help if you feel a panic coming on, is to focus on your senses. Observe five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and something you can taste. You want to reconnect with your body, breath, and the moment—to relax, release, and let go.
One of the best things you can do to counterbalance stress is to take a walk in nature. Reconnect with the earth beneath your feet, feel the grass or sand in between your toes, and enjoy the texture of trees, and the shadows of the sun through the leaves. Become mindful of the present moment and think about what you are most grateful for. Focus on what you want in life (not what you don’t want) and put yourself back in control of your thoughts.
Move your body to burn up the stress chemicals so they are not just sitting there wreaking havoc on your nervous system. Exercise is a great way to burn off the stress and release positive endorphins instead. Do whatever feels fun for you, which is different for everyone. Maybe it’s swimming or running, skipping, dancing, or just jumping up and down and shaking off all the stress to your favorite music, get your body moving in a way you enjoy.
Laughing is also a really good way to counterbalance stress and relax your nervous system. Watch funny films that make you laugh. Think back to a time that you couldn’t stop laughing. Return to that moment now and feel how good it felt to laugh and release all the tension and stress in your body. If in doubt, just smile or start by pretending to laugh and see how that feels, usually your body will relax and start to release a feel-good response.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed, a clear fresh outside perspective really helps “see the wood for the trees.”
When to seek help for stress
Stress is something to take seriously and it’s a good idea to see your doctor or an expert who can help if you feel overwhelmed by stress.
If you are having trouble dealing with stress on your own, or it starts to interfere with your day-to-day life, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can talk to someone close to you, such as friends and family members, or you may prefer to speak to an experienced healthcare professional.
There are also many types of health professionals who can help you manage stress more effectively. Some of these professionals include:
- Coaches and specialists
- Professional counselors
- Psychologist or therapists
Blisspot offers private confidential one-to-one sessions with a specialist or expert of your choice.
You can see some of the experts in action on the FREE Monthly masterclasses, which are available to watch on-demand.
In May, the monthly masterclass will be all about stress and resilience with the experienced Blisspot expert psychologist, therapist, and counselor—Barry Winbolt.
Barry Winbolt MSc. is dedicated to enabling people to ‘get a better handle on life.’
With more than 30 years’ experience advising and training people and consulting organizations on how to improve their lives and work, Barry built his career around sharing information that helps people sort out the things that trouble them.
Barry specializes in a solution-focused problem-solving approach that’s useful, practical, and effective. His online personal development courses have attracted more than 60k students. Barry believes that there’s always something you can do if you have the right information and the right guidance.
If you’re having trouble managing your stress, speaking with a professional will help you identify your source of stress and construct a plan for managing it in ways that are healthy and productive.
If you feel like your stress is out of control or affecting your quality of life, you can also talk to your doctor, healthcare provider, or call upon the expertise of a specialist support line.
If you need urgent or immediate help and support there are always options available:
- Speak to your doctor or healthcare provider.
- If your life is in immediate danger, call your emergency response number or visit your Emergency Room.
- You can also get help from mental health charities and dedicated support services, such as